Traditional Irish Wedding Reception Customs
In a previous article, I listed numerous Irish customs that couples can incorporate into their wedding ceremony. In this followup article, I will describe other Irish customs for a wedding reception.
Decorating the Path. In nineteenth century Ireland, it was common for people to decorate the way from the bride’s home to the church on the day of her wedding. Floral garlands, evergreen boughs, lanterns, and torches were often used to lead the way to the church.
In Irish Wedding Traditions, Shannon McMahon Lichte offers several suggestions on how this tradition can be adapted for more modern weddings, to help guests find their way to the church and from the church to the reception (42). You could decide to attach flower bouquets to trees and signposts, or less expensive balloons and bows. For a more distinctive Irish touch, you could use Irish symbols such as the Tricolor flag, shamrock, harp, or the Claddaugh to adorn trees and signposts along the way.
Reception Decorations. Placing a pot of shamrocks in the center of each table would be very Irish and very festive. But if you prefer traditional flower arrangements, talk to your florist about having flowers native to Ireland, such as the Burnet rose, violets, hydrangeas, foxglove, Bells of Ireland, daisies, Irish orchids, ivy, ferns, and primroses.
Food and Drink. Talk to your caterer about serving Irish dishes. You can find numerous recipes in a Irish cookbook at any major bookstore. For drinks, have plenty of Irish whisky and Guinness on hand. Also, make sure your bartender knows how to make Irish cocktails, such as Irish Spring, An Irish Dog, An Irish Highball, An Irish Seaman, An Irish Lady, and Irish Lady Champagne Punch. The recipes for these drinks can be found in Lichte’s Irish Wedding Traditions.
Wedding Cake. A traditional Irish wedding cake is fruitcake. If you prefer not to use fruitcake, you can ask your baker to decorate it with Irish symbols, such as swans, a harp, or the Claddaugh and green ribbon and flowers.
Music. Music has always been an important part of any celebration in Ireland, and weddings are no exception. Having traditional Irish music at your wedding presents little problem. If you prefer live music, search for Irish musicians in your area. Or if you decide on a disc jockey, prepare a play list to include Irish musicians such as The Chieftains, Celtic Thunder, Gaelic Storm, Da Danaan, Christy Moore, James Galway, U2, The Wild Rovers, Loreena McKennett, Altan, Druid Stone, and Enya, to name a few. Compilations of Irish party and dancing songs are also available for purchase. Two of these are titled “New Irish Dance Party” and “130 Irish Party Songs” by Rego.
Toasting. In Ireland, it’s customary for the bride and groom to share a cup for their first drink as man and wife, rather than two separate wineglasses. An internet search can direct you to many sites which sales chalices and goblets with Irish designs. And rather than sharing the usual champagne, why not toast each other with mead?
Kissing. In her book, Irish Wedding Traditions, Lichte describes a wonderful variation to the custom of guests clinking a glass with a spoon to induce the bride and groom to kiss. She reports that at a recent Irish wedding, guests were asked to stand up and sing a song or recite a poem with the word “love” in it whenever they wanted the newly-wedded couple to kiss (Lichte 140). This involvement of the guests is in keeping with the ancient Irish tradition of storytelling and merrymaking.
Sharing Riches. In Ireland, it is customary for the bride and groom to make a donation to a charity, as it is believed that they will have bad luck in their marriage if they do not. Lichte offers several suggestions for couples to re-create this custom at their own wedding. You may decide to have a supply of Irish pence for you and your spouse to throw to guests when you leave the reception, you could give each guest a small pouch filled with Irish pence and confetti to toss rather than rice, or you both could make a donation to the charity of your choice in your spouse’s name to ensure good luck in your marriage.
These are only a few suggestions on how to incorporate Irish customs into your wedding; there are many, many more which can be found in a book on Irish weddings, of which there are several on the market.